It’s been over a month since I last hit a golf ball, sinking that 3-footer for a crowd-pleasing triple-bogey seven on the last hole at Las Vegas National, and I’ll admit I was starting to feel itchy. Even more so after talking with my good Goodboys friend The Funny Guy about getting my swing checked out at the Hudson, NH Golf & Ski when I’m back in Massachusetts the last week of this month. The idea being, ask to try a few different brands of clubs out in their bays where you can hit outside – not at a damned screen – and see what feels good.
I had a ton of work today but had to go out and get a haircut, so I was already in the general vicinity of the PGA Tour Superstore five minutes away from me and on a whim decided to stop in. I have to admit, just being around something associated with golf rekindled a kind of excitement – after all, being a free agent with no clubs in my garage except my Ping Scottsdale putter is a position I’ve never been in. And with more than three months still to go until Goodboys Invitational weekend I have the time and leisure to pick out the kind of clubs I want and do it in a way that allows me to make a good and informed decision.
I sauntered up to the counter by all the hitting bays and talked with Ryan, told him my situation, told him I was a 24 handicap, told him I hadn’t hit balls for a month and that I was just getting over an acute case of the shanks, and – most importantly – let him know the process I was planning to follow. That right now I just wanted to try out a few different kinds of irons just to get a feel for what would be a different set of clubs, no matter what happened. Steel shafts off the rack would be fine. That at this point I didn’t even want to think of woods and various combinations, that I just wanted to hit three different brands of irons.
I had already stopped in a couple of weeks go just to feel the different kinds of brands out there and felt comfortable narrowing my search in irons to the Calloway XR, Cobra King F7, and Mizuno JPX. If I didn’t like any of those, then I’d toss something else into the mix. Afternoons are quiet at the PGA Tour Superstore this time of year – everyone’s out playing golf – so there was no rush, all the bays being empty. And Ryan, being the astute sales associate (and PGA professional) that he was, knew this was no time for a “my way or the highway” attitude: after all, new club sales for anything except the most exotic and boutique stuff are pretty flat and that it was in his interest to make me comfortable with my process.
He gave me a Mizuno JPX 6-iron and 7-irons for the Callaway and Cobra, told me to take my time and have at the machine. I’ll admit to being a little nervous as I put on my golf glove. Would I shank the first ball I hit? And if I did, what then – hit a second? And then what if I shanked that one? I guess I’d just take off my glove, hand the clubs back to Ryan, and go home to craft my farewell letter to my fellow Goodboys in the nation. I mean, that’s how bad my last two golf experiences were. Maybe it was because I was so sick at the time (and sick I was, I ended up losing fifteen pounds and it was only last week that quick moves no longer left me lightheaded), but gee-whiz, what if it wasn’t because of that? What if I was a casualty of the game in the making like Ian Baker-Finch was – after all, he had to quit the game because it was destroying him psychologically.
So there was a lot riding on that first swing at some stupid bay at a PGA Tour Superstore this first week of April. I grabbed the Mizuno 6 and took a swing. Didn’t even take a practice swing, just grabbed a ball and hit it. Amazingly, it actually went straight! As did the second one. I topped the third, then yanked the fourth, but I started to enjoy myself, feeling the anxiousness leave me as I took a few more swings. I then grabbed the Cobra 7 and hit some pretty decent shots. Ryan encouraged me to start swinging a little harder to try and get as much out of the clubs as I could, telling me that was the only way I’d get a real feel for what these clubs could do. So that’s what I did, and I could actually feel a little more confidence coming back. Perhaps being sick in Vegas had left a swing thought of just swinging easy as a way to get through the rounds and it was doing that that encouraged the shanks – I mean, who knows?
What a head case I am.
Anyways, I tried the Callaway 7 and really didn’t like it. I’m not sure why, but after a few swings I found myself gravitating back to that Mizuno 6. I really liked that club, felt like I could really wail away at it. Then back to the Cobra, then back to the Callaway. After a good 30 minutes, I had racked up some pretty decent golf swings, being complimented by Ryan on several occasions. I told him I’d be back to try them all again because with my swing, who knows what will show up on any given day. But here are a few thoughts:
1. If I were to rank the clubs I hit today it would be the Mizuno, Cobra, and Callaway in that order.
2. I’m really not interested in a complete set of the same brand just for the sake of playing a single brand.
3. By the time I hit the Golf & Ski I’m going to be down to two iron choices and start looking at drivers and woods.
4. Depending on how the sets play out, whatever serves as hybrids (#3 / 4 iron replacements) will be a crap-shoot.
Arriving home I cracked open a Sam Adams (I knew I was finally over being sick this past weekend when a Sam Adams Boston Lager actually tasted good for the first time since, like, forever) and put on some mellow surf music. And it all felt good. And it all felt right.
The Great White Shank had taken his first step forward to rejoining the golf-playing community.